Best Films of 2016 — So Far

Posted on June 10, 2016 at 12:51 pm

At Rogerebert.com, critics talk about their favorite films of the year so far. Of course there are the usual festival gems and art-house indies, but also films like “The Nice Guys” and “Captain America: Civil War.” I was very happy to get a chance to talk about one of mine: Everybody Wants Some!! \

When “Everybody Wants Some!!” was described as “a spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused,” I was expecting a endearing mix-tape movie with party scenes and an impeccable cast of mostly unknowns playing quirky characters. It has all that but it reminded me more of writer/director Richard Linklater’s more existentially ambitious films like “Waking Life” (still my favorite he’s done so far), the “Before” trilogy, and “Boyhood.” Though like “Dazed and Confused” it takes its title from a song that places us immediately in the year (1980) and setting (weekend before classes start in an unnamed Texas university), “Everybody Wants Some!!” (two exclamation points) starts upending our assumptions right from the beginning, as the central character, starting his freshman year, shows himself to be self-aware, confident, and knowing right from the start. Wait, what? Aren’t all college movies supposed to be about freshman who have to achieve that over the course of the film?

Yes, there are a lot of parties and a lot of sex and drugs. But the women are not objectified or exploited by the characters or the camera. And I loved the way the guys had to keep going back to the house to change their clothes before each outing: a disco, a “kicker” bar, a punk concert, a party given by the drama majors. The malleability of the various personas they were trying on as they were discovering what it was like to be on a team where everyone had pretty much been the star of every team he’d been on through high school was skillfully portrayed. And the exploration of the competitive tension between wanting to stand out and knowing that the only way to do that is to work seamlessly with the team was lightly but thoughtfully explored. I loved the discussion of the possibly imaginary scout for the majors who could be hiding anywhere. And I love the so crazy-it-just-might-be-true idea that the character played by Wyatt Russell may be the same breakthrough role that was played by Matthew McConaughey in “Dazed and Confused.”

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Critics

Everybody Wants Some!!

Posted on March 31, 2016 at 5:10 pm

A+
Lowest Recommended Age: Preschool
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout, sexual content, drug use and some nudity
Profanity: Constant very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drugs
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: April 1, 2016

Copyright Annapurna Films 2016
Copyright Annapurna Films 2016
“Everybody Wants Some!!,” the “spiritual sequel” to Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, is so much fun that it is easy to overlook how sweet it is and how smart it is. Those who are hoping for the same combination of slightly smug nostalgia, outrageous partying, smart, self-aware characters including at least one who is older than the others but prefers to hang out with teenagers, almost no grown-ups, and a superbly curated soundtrack will find all of that. Like “Dazed and Confused,” the title comes from a rock song with some smokin’ guitar licks, this one, two exclamation points and all, by Van Halen. But this film is subtler, more ambitious, heir not just to “Dazed and Confused” but also to Linklater’s impressionistic, existentialist film “Waking Life,” and even to his “Before” trilogy as well.

As in the earlier film, the time period is compressed. “Dazed and Confused” took place on the last day of high school. “Everybody Wants Some!!” takes place on the weekend before classes start at an unnamed Texas college. It opens with freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) driving to school in a convertible, blasting — of course — “My Sharona.” Welcome to 1980.

Jake is about to move into the house set aside for the members of the school’s baseball team, nationally ranked and the heroes of the school. (Linklater played college baseball for two years at Sam Houston State University.) As soon as he arrives and introduces himself to his new teammates, the dynamic that plays out through the rest of the film is established. These guys are athletes, so they are very competitive as individuals but also very aware that in order to be successful as a team they have to be competitive in a way that helps the team. Linklater and his exceptional young cast, all of whom had to audition both for acting and for ability to play baseball, perfectly capture the endless jockeying for position combined with an instinctive teamwork based on constant assessment of one another. They use a made-up word I can’t quote here to describe the way their physical and verbal interaction combines one-upmanship and more benign getting-to-know-you high spirits, both instinctively team building.

Not much happens in the movie, at least on the surface. The guys hang out and talk. There’s a ping pong game, some locker room hijinks, ingestion of various mood-altering substances, and of course a lot of discussion about and pursuit of the ladies. This leads them to several different venues and it is a lot of fun to see them adapt (including changes of clothes) as they go from a disco to a “kicker” (country music) bar, to a punk performance and finally a costume party given by the drama students.

But this is not the usual college comedy, thankfully avoiding the usual humiliation and clunky life lessons. The incoming freshmen are (mostly) smart, self-aware, and curious. The women (mostly) are not significant enough to merit much in the way of personality or storyline, and the male characters may tend to objectify or exploit them but the movie does not. They are smart, capable, looking for a good time, and self-aware, and the one we spend time with (Zoey Deutch, in a lovely performance as a drama student named Beverly) has a walk-and-talk (and float) conversation with Jake that reminds us this is a film from the writer/director of “Before Sunrise.”

The entire cast is superb, especially Jenner (“The Glee Project”), Wyatt Russell (“22 Jump Street”) as a transferring senior with a taste for philosophy and weed, Glenn Powell (“Expendables 3”) as the smooth-talking Finnigan, and J. Quinton Johnson as Dale, who is willing to explain to the newcomers what is going on.

Not much seems to be happening as the characters go from one party to another, but it does in fact cover a surprising range of ideas with a great deal of insight. It is a “spiritual sequel” in literal terms, if not grappling with then at least pondering the meaning of existence and the existence of meaning. The utterly perfect final shot brings that home perfectly.

As the characters keep changing their clothes to fit in at each venue, they ask themselves whether they are pretending or adapting. Jake talks about how each of them had always been the best baseball player at home, only to come to college and share a team with an entire group of best players. The guys think about who they are and what their goals are (hey, it’s a college movie; you know what their goal is, but there’s more there, too).

It takes place over a few days but Linklater’s perspective on existence, meaning, and the passage of time is subtly interwoven between the bong hits and the hitting of various balls. As the young baseball players reckon with their future prospects (and dream up a possible scout for the pros who could be hiding anywhere), they and we know that, like the movie itself, their time playing baseball is brief, and that’s all the more reason to enjoy the show.

NOTE: Stay through the credits to see a delightful musical number created by the cast

Parents should know that this film includes very strong and crude language, extensive partying with drinking and drugs, sexual references and situations, and nudity.

Family discussion: Did the guys’ competition with each other help or hurt the team? What are the biggest differences between what went on here and what would happen today?

If you like this, try: “Dazed and Confused,” “Waking Life,” and “Before Sunset” from the same writer/director

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Movies -- format Romance Scene After the Credits School Series/Sequel Stories about Teens

The Movie-Making Families of Two Stars of “Everybody Wants Some!!”

Posted on March 31, 2016 at 8:00 am

everybody wants some wyatt russell

The attractive young cast of Richard Linklater’s new film, “Everybody Wants Some!!” includes two actors who come from Hollywood families. Wyatt Russell, best known for “22 Jump Street,” plays a transfer student. He is the son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

Copyright Getty Images 2015
Copyright Getty Images 2015

And Zoey Deutch, who plays a drama student, is the daughter of Lea Thompson (“Back to the Future” and the television series “Switched at Birth”) and director Howard Deutch (“Pretty in Pink” and episodes of “True Blood,” “American Horror Story,” and “Jane the Virgin”).

Copyright Annapurna Films 2016
Copyright Annapurna Films 2016

She played Maya in The Suite Life on Deck and co-starred with her mother and sister in the cute film Mayor Cupcake

Copyright Highway One Pictures 2011
Copyright Highway One Pictures 2011
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